Friday, December 12, 2008

Allah issue an opportunity to exhibit Christ's love

What is in a name after all

The Kuala Lumpur High Court has set a new trial date on Feb 27 on the suit filed by our Catholic weekly Herald on the use of the word 'Allah’. It is sad that we have to resort to human judgment to determine the name we use to address the one and the same God for all mankind.

Since the case was filed a number of other interested parties have joined in as co-respondents. These include eight Islamic agencies, the Home Ministry and the Malaysian Gurdwara Association representing the Sikh community. It appears that when the case may be paving the way for a showdown between the Muslims and non-Muslims, in particular, Christians.

"Allah" is the same name used by Christian Arabs and Jewish Arabs in their Bible, centuries before Islam came. The non-Muslims in Malaysia, like Christians and Sikhs, have been using the word 'Allah' without any problem all these years. It would be wrong for the government now to create an issue out of something which has been a non-issue all these while. What is their motive in forbidding others from using that word?

At a time when racial and religious differences are causing so much tension and anxiety among the people, will a public debate on the 'Allah' issue help to restore the much needed inter-religious harmony? Wouldn’t it aggravate the already existing tense situation.

There is no doubt that we are frustrated at being denied our fundamental rights of worship and are tempted to react with anger and hate. However Jesus has taught us to love all men regardless of the race, religion, social status and political ideology. By his Passion and crucifixion, Jesus has taught us to love and forgive even those who hurt us, to offer the other cheek when struck on one. In short Jesus has asked us to even love our enemies as ourselves which seems to be ridiculous in today’s world. If our neighbour is hurt by what we do or say, wouldn't the right thing for us to do is to refrain from continuing with those offending acts?

This dispute over the right to use "Allah" has given us the opportunity to demonstrate the true meaning of love, goodwill and tolerance as demonstrated by Jesus himself. These virtues may appear to make us the losers in a material world governed by wealth,power and egomania but in the eyes of God, truth will definitely prevail as the ultimate victor in our struggles for justice.
Our judicial system may be a civil way that allows one to seek revenge and hitting back at those who have hurt us in some way. As the true followers of Christ what are we to do? Should we fight back to just to regain our rights to call God Allah? Can’t we call him by some other name? After all what is in a name as God is still God by whatever name we call him.

Instead of spending our time, energy and resources to fight over the use of “Allah” it would be more fruitful for us to be more worried about the rapidly declining influence of the Church in the lives of peoples in the world. Christianity is losing its identity as the promoter of peace, love, humility, forgiveness, morality and a champion of the masses. Let's spend more of our time and energy to address these problems that plague our Church in particular and humanity in general.

Let's implore the Holy Spirit to guide the minds of all so that we can one day, regardless of our different religious believes, come together as His children, to worship the one true God, addressing Him by any name we like.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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